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Biometrics solving security challenges of remote and flexible working

By Shannon Williams
Tue 6 Jul 2021

Organisations are being encouraged to look at biometric technology tp help manage security issues raised by the increase in flexible working arrangements.

"The modern employee’s daily life is powered by numerous technologies. PCs, smartphones, dongles, USB sticks and several cloud-based enterprise applications are all at the heart of today’s working world," says Maria Pihlstrm, senior global marketing manager at Fingerprints.

"As work becomes more agile, these technologies are a vital bridge to ensuring flexibility and business continuity. But corporate data needs to be protected regardless of where or when an employee is working," she says.

Pihlstrm says biometric technology is already enabling smarter physical and logical access, and could be the solution businesses need to empower their staff with robust yet convenient security, even when they are working from anywhere.

The security challenges of remote and flexible working

Having grown by nearly 140% since 2005, more businesses and employees recognise the benefits of remote and flexible working. Many corporate giants now champion a hybrid office/remote work model – but how can they maintain security and privacy just as effectively with a distributed workforce?

"April 2021 was a record month for cyberattacks and data breaches, with 143 known incidents breaching an unprecedented 1 billion records." says Pihlstrm.

"Legislation such as Europe’s GDPR means security and privacy represent a significant commercial pressure-point. Businesses cannot take their eye off the ball with security. However, maintaining seamless security across a distributed and flexible workforce poses numerous complexities."

Pihlstrm says WFA in shared environments such as at home with roommates, in activity-based offices, co-working spaces, or even cafes comes with an increased risk of stolen passwords and PINs through ‘shoulder surfing’. 

"This is a significant concern given more than 60% of hacking incidents involve stolen credentials. The risks surrounding employees leaving devices unlocked in public spaces or losing data storage devices that don’t have embedded security also grows outside of the office," she says.

"Furthermore, as remote workers are often using less secure internet connections, the need for stronger authentication increases."

Flexible working is also seeing fixed office hours softened. 

"So, employers need a way to protect their office effectively while still allowing employee access at their convenience," Pihlstrm says.

The password problem

According to Fingerprints, balancing security with convenience means that traditional methods such as PINs and passwords are no longer fit for purpose. 

"Today, 60% of consumers feel that they have too many passwords to remember. Some have in excess of 85 for all their professional and personal accounts, and maintaining these in line with differing complexity requirements is an uncomfortable prospect for many," says Pihlstrm.

"Consequently, many simply re-use the same password or inject minor variations – a sin 41% are apparently guilty of."

Pihlstrm says security should not be a burden for employees, nor should it present additional worries for employers. 

"Instead, it should empower workers to be productive yet secure, putting employers at ease," she says.

Biometrics - smarter security wherever and whenever you work

Through biometrics, employees become the key to their remote workplace security on a range of devices and access points including laptops, PCs, access pads and fobs, Pihlstrm says.

"Whereas a PIN or password can be forgotten, biometrics cannot. As biometric technology only gives access to authorised users, is difficult to steal and spoof and does not allow scalable attacks it reduces the risk of hacks and breaches through stolen credentials, lost devices, or poorly secured non-enterprise networks," she explains.

"Biometric technology used in smart locks or smart cards can simplify physical access control for flexible working too," Pihlstrm adds.

"With only authorised users granted access, businesses have peace of mind that it is only their employees on site, regardless of the time they find themselves working."

Biometrics are already the de-facto authentication method in smartphones and are a familiar feature in PCs and smart homes. According to Fingerprints, this makes integrating biometrics for physical and logical access at work a golden opportunity.

"To simplify integration, employers can turn to solutions that use on-device biometric data storage," says Pihlstrm.

"With these solutions, the biometric data is stored, matched and authenticated securely within the device, removing the costly administrative burden of creating, maintaining and protecting a central database," she says.

"This makes biometrics easier to implement for employers while ensuring employee privacy, reassuring the 38% of consumers who have concerns about centralised biometric data."

Employee & employer trust with biometrics

"By removing the reliance on passwords and PINs, biometric technology becomes the security pillar that can overcome worries employers may have with flexible and remote working," Pihlstrm says.

"In the long term, many businesses will support their employees with WFA, but they must ensure that they are not exposing themselves to greater risk. 

"Biometrics creates high levels of trust between employees and employers. Trust that they are securing their corporate devices when being used remotely; that if they lose their devices the data cannot be accessed; and that they can access their workplace information at their convenience," she says.

"Through biometrics, and the simplified, convenient and secure environment it creates, employees are empowered to be just as productive wherever and whenever they choose to work."

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